Historians and Jewish leaders who met this week in Serbia to discuss the future of the country’s largest death camp are concerned that the site could be subsumed in a commercial development.
There are plans for Staro Sajmište, in Belgrade, to become a “multi-functional” development, with a memorial merely part of the mix. There are already nightclubs and a restaurant on part of the site.
“Serbia was the only country outside Poland and the Soviet Union where all Jewish victims were killed on the spot without deportation, and was the first country after Estonia to be declared ‘Judenfrei’,” said historian Christopher Browning, who was at the conference.
Around 7,000 Jewish women and children were murdered at Sajmište between November 1941 and May 1942. A further 10,600 mainly Serbian victims were murdered or died of disease and starvation while interned there from 1942 to 1944. Despite its significance, the site remains derelict.
“Above all, it should be a place of public education,” said Alexandar Nécak, former president of the Jewish communities in Serbia.